How to reduce anxiety: 5 ways to calm down

Fear can be paralyzing. It causes stress, disrupts your sleep and takes the sparkle out of your life. Feeling anxious? 5 steps to help you relax.

1. Accept what you can and cannot influence

You cannot influence everything. You cannot decide that it will rain today or that the sun will shine tomorrow. Nor can you influence the fact that a loved one suddenly becomes ill. These matters are part of the circle of concern. They are areas that concern you but you cannot influence them.

There are, however, things you can influence. These are part of your circle of influence. You have no influence on the weather, but you can influence how you feel about it. Do you feel anxious? Ask yourself what is possible within your circle of influence. Is there anything you can change about the situation? Then go ahead and do it. Are you unable to do anything about it because it is completely beyond your control? Then it’s part of your circle of concern and you need to try and let it go. After all, you aren't able to change it anyway.

2. Bring your attention back to the "here and now"

Are you anxious about what "could happen"? Many people live in the past or in the future. They are sad about things that have happened and afraid of what is yet to come. If you are having these thoughts, it is important to focus your attention on the "here and now". What is going on right now: are you safe, is there anything you should be afraid of? If not, then try to let it go.

How to reduce anxiety? Meditation can help bring your attention back to the “here and now”. When you meditate you try to let (fearful) thoughts pass, and all that remains is the present to focus on.

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3. Reconsider your fears

When you’re afraid of something, you tend to assume the worst-case scenario. For example, your partner comes home later than usual and you’re afraid that he or she got into an accident (turns out it was a traffic jam). Or you lose your job and you’re afraid you won’t be able to afford anything to eat.

In these situations, it is important to reconsider your fears. So grab hold of them and take a good look. What are you really afraid of? What's the worst thing that could happen?

For example, if you lose your job will you run out of money to go shopping? You probably saved up some money and perhaps your partner still has a job. In addition, you will start looking for a new job shortly and what are the odds that you won’t succeed? Also, there are always people around who want to help out.

In your mind, your fears may appear larger than life. Look at your fears from that perspective: undress them and make them visible. They may end up not being that big at all.

4. Inhale, exhale and relax

If you deal with anxious thoughts on a regular basis, create a routine for yourself that includes a daily break. When something becomes a routine it requires little effort. Consider, for example, brushing your teeth. You brush your teeth every night, without consciously thinking about it.

For many people meditation (in the morning) is a daily routine for peace of mind. Other things may work better for you, like a 30-minute morning walk. Or taking a few minutes during your lunch break to do some yoga exercises. Figure out what works best for you and incorporate it into your day.

Also read: “I can’t sleep” – how to solve your sleep problems!

5. Make your night's sleep sacred

A good night's sleep is extremely important, but also very vulnerable. When you’re concerned or worried about something it can directly impact your sleep: you toss and turn in bed, have difficulty falling asleep or have intense dreams.

So it’s important to pay attention to your sleep - especially if you suffer from anxiety. Try to figure out how to sleep better. For example, no coffee after 3 pm or a well-ventilated and dark bedroom. Sleep meditations also help many people to sleep better.

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